Author: CeeDee
see # 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Thanks to Sakusha, who betaed this despite her drool-covered keyboard to the end of this chappy... *laughs* - and thanks Ellimaru, for your polishing touch.

Future of the Past - #14

{This angel presides over the science of medicine and
physics. Mumiah is traditionally believed to grant health
and longevity, as well as being able to suspend physical
laws to create miracles.}


I woke to the sound of Quatre's soft, steady voice. It sounded as if he was reading something. Bright light shone through my still closed eyelids and I wondered where I was. The voice rang through my mind, and formed coherent words. He was reading, all right. Sounded like a tale. I did not recognize it, but it felt nice, being read to. I shifted slightly and wriggled deeper into my pillow.

"Duo?" Quatre's voice now clearly addressed me I figured, because he'd spoken my name.

"Hmm?" I shifted, annoyed at being ripped from my half dream and comfortable lethargy. I wondered for a moment why Quatre was in my quarters, reading to me in the first place. "Don't wanna. Let me..." Oh, wait. There was something... I sat up like a spring, and looked around, bewildered. Oh, no. I was in medical... again.

Blinking against the light, I tried to recall the reason I was there. It was becoming rather monotonous. I tested my limbs and stretched again, but nothing hurt. Wait! I remembered the carrier... the wound... I touched my side, but there was only smooth skin under my hospital grown. No bandages, no stitches. Turning my head, I looked at Quatre. "What the hell..."

He sat in a chair; book now in his lap, between mine and... Trowa's beds.

"... happened to him, Quat?" I blurted out, before he could answer my first outburst.

He looked sadly over at the still sleeping form in the other bed and replied, "The same thing what happened to you."

"He was stabbed?"

Quatre shook his head. "No, nothing... physical. He exhausted himself."

Looking at him in puzzlement, I eloquently added "Huh?"

He smiled tiredly at my lack of thought process, and then sighed heavily, fidgeting with a page of the book.

"What happened, Quat?" I poked softly, bringing my legs up to my chest and wrapping my arms around them.

"We... we were in the command centre and the Xetoins broke through the door. At first we held them in check, but then Trowa ran out of ammo..."

I snickered and he furrowed his brows, but continued.

"... and then Heero. We were better combatants than them and we continued to fight, but there were so many of them. It seemed for every one we killed there came two more of them..." He trailed off, remembering. "We've all got a few cuts, bruises, minor things."

I nodded and waited patiently for him to continue.

He took a deep breath. "And then one slipped under my guard and Trowa shoved me out of the way and turned... and it was as if the Xetion ran into a wall. I..." he shook his head, "I don't know what it was exactly, but it seems that Trowa developed a gift..."

I bit my lip and nodded again, then rested my head on my knees.

"I... he held them back, you know? We had to steady him after a while. It seemed to take a lot of energy out of him. But he shielded us. And... and then you two were there and..." He looked me in the eye. "Duo, what in the hell are *you* capable of?"

I closed my eyes briefly and bit my lip again before I shrugged and let an unconcerned smile cover my insecurity. "Why, Quat, I'm Shinigami. You already knew that."

He narrowed his eyes at my attempted cheerfulness. "Duo..." He fiddled with his hands.

I sighed, and squeezed my eyes shut. "I kill, Quatre. I just... kill." I said, miserably.

I heard him get up, and a thump as the book fell to the floor. My mattress shifted as he sat down on my bed and put his arms around me. "No," he murmured, one hand rubbing circles on my back, "you don't just kill. I felt it, you know?" He drew a sharp breath. "We got a shock, seeing you in that state. You were covered all over in blood, leaning on Wufei, and what little of your skin was visible was chalk white. We thought you were hurt badly. Your eyes... and then, when you collapsed..."

Quizzically I opened one eye and stared at his shoulder.

He chuckled softly as if he had seen my curiosity. "I felt you unleash your fury. And the brush of death. But that was not all. There was also love, care, and the need to protect. That was nice," he murmured wistfully, "among all this alien hostility."

I shifted and put my chin on his shoulder, snuck my arms around him. "I'm just glad we made it." My eyes fell on Towa. "So, what's with Tro exactly?"

I felt him stiffen and he disengaged himself from our embrace. He turned his head to look at Trowa. "He's in a coma," he answered, miserably.

I gasped at his tone. "What?"

"But so were you." He looked back to me, a small, sad smile tugging at his lips. "Now that you're awake I am sure he, too, will be soon."

I frowned. "How long was I out?"

"Four days," he replied. "You exhausted yourself totally, Sally said. I suspect by using your gift so excessively." I gave him an unbelieving look, and he added hastily "It wasn't your injury. Most of the blood wasn't yours. Your wound healed neatly. You can almost see how the flesh knitted itself. It's amazing."

"Science," I snorted. "As if we haven't been tampered with enough. Now we're all freaks, too."

"I don't consider myself a freak," he said, hesitantly. "Enhanced, maybe. Or further along the evolutionary scale than most. Sally wants to make a scan. Of you and Tro."

I groaned.

He chuckled softly. "It's not that bad. She did the rest of us already. Bethor's equipment is far ahead of Earth technology. The results were... interesting."

"I don't care," I whined. "I've already spent more than enough time here since this freaking trip began." Then a thought came to me. "Where *are* the others? Wu-man and 'Ro?"

"They are mending the alien ships with the Maganacs and Preventers. We took turns. Today was my day to rest and read to you two. The Karems are frightened. There are a lot of them."

I nodded, understanding. I could relate.


The first thing on my list after being released from medical, was to go to my quarters.

As I palmed the pad and the door opened in front of me, I was grabbed and pulled into our quarters. Heero, freshly showered and apparently on his way to leave again, scooped me up and I gripped his arms for balance as he kissed me, hard.

I released his arms and moaned in his mouth as he put me back down. He wrapped his arms around my shoulders without breaking the kiss. Eagerly, I slid my tongue into his mouth, tasting him once again. God, it had been so long and I'd wanted this since I'd woken up in medical hours before.

Now he was here in my arms. If this was a coma induced dream, I was going to be pissed as hell when I woke up. If it wasn't, he was so not going to get away. The kiss carried on until we were both left gasping for air, our hands roaming over each other's bodies all the while. I'd managed to undo some of the buttons on the white shirt Heero wore, and slid a hand underneath it to skim along Heero's chest. Heero's hands were beneath the back of my top, and had it pushed halfway up my back.

"God, I want you so fucking much," I breathed against Heero's mouth. I rocked my hips and couldn't help but moan again as I ground against Heero. Somehow, we made our way across the room, and I vaguely noticed that along the way I had lost my top. We fell down onto the bed, rolling over again and again, still kissing, and I wrapped my legs around Heero's waist above me.

I squeezed my legs around him as I yanked his shirt off. Breaking the kiss, I pulled it over his head, unwilling to wait to undo the rest of the buttons. Once the garment was off, Heero rolled onto his back, dragging me along with him until our positions were reversed. Within seconds he came up and I met Heero halfway and we resumed the kiss, tongues battling as we tried to taste as much of each other as possible.

Heero's skin was exactly how I remembered, smooth except for a few puckered scars, testament of sacrifices made. I cherished every one of them. I ran my fingers over them, causing Heero to flinch, so I soothed my hands along his sides until he relaxed again. He skimmed a hand along the edge of my pants until I was squirming on top of him, rubbing against him in such a devilish manner that he closed his eyes and took a deep shuddering breath. "Take me," I whispered into his ear, wishing for nothing more at this moment.

"Duo... oh, don't do that," he moaned, "I don't want to come in my pants again." He slid his fingers through my hair as he opened his eyes. Holding my head still, he stared intently at me. "I want to come in you this time." His eyes burned into me. "I want to feel you around me, hot and tight, just like I've dreamed of since forever."

Eyes heavy-lidded, I gazed back at him. "Oh yeah, fuck me, Heero. I... want you." Then I lowered my head, forcing Heero to release his hold before he pulled my hair, and started to nuzzle his neck. Heero moaned softly and tilted his head sideways so I could have better access to the side of his neck. He didn't stop rocking his hips as my mouth tormented him by sucking on and nipping at his skin. He took it, panting, until I thought he would come despite his words, and then he rolled over, tucking me beneath him. "Gods, how I love the feel of you against me...."

He caressed my chest as he returned the favour, nibbling on my ear, before his mouth trailed down my neck. Once he reached my collarbone, he started to suck in earnest, apparently pleased by both the thought of me bearing his mark, and the way I writhed beneath him. After a few moments he continued downward, pausing to suck on a nipple. He traced lines on my belly with his tongue, swirling it inside my navel before scooting lower, breathing on the covered bulge.

I moaned his name, but we had to take care of a few things first before he could lose himself in my body, the way we both wanted. He set about taking off my boots. They had to come off before he could get rid of the hindering pants. Gliding his hands down the inside of my thighs, he chuckled at the sounds his touch provoked from me. Jerking at the ties, he deftly unlaced my boots. Then he was tossing them behind him, his hands trailing back up the inside of my legs, his fingers brushing against my still bound erection and making me buck my hips at the contact.

Heero's hands shook in anticipation as he undid the zipper on my pants, and once they were loosened enough, he grasped the waistband and started to tug on them. I quickly lifted my hips, helping him to slide them down my legs. Soon enough they were tossed the way of the boots, and Heero bent down to lick at one of my ankles. He slowly made his way back up my legs, placing kisses here and there, while my fingers sought hold of the sheets. He deliberately skirted around my cock, standing proudly before him, to nuzzle my hipbone. While I squirmed beneath him, wanting more, he fumbled with his own pants, trying to get them off as quickly as possible.

It took several tries before he could undo his belt buckle, and once his jeans were unzipped, he was shoving them down. He had to pull away from me so he could completely remove them. Then they were gone and I grabbed him by his hair and pulled him back on top of me. He groaned as our bodies came into contact, and then again when I rocked against him, erections sliding against each other with a maddening friction.

"Heero...." I arched my back and moaned, eyes closed, as I wrapped a leg around Heero's waist.

"Yes," he sighed as he captured my lips again for a kiss. He kissed me gently this time; our hips thrust against each other's, and I basked in the feeling of skin against skin, that he was naked above me, and the thought that we would be joined like never before.

I felt separate from the world, cut off from everything except for Heero.

My hands fell from his hair, one of them settling on the small of his back. Heero stroked his hands down my sides, until they rested on my hips, pulling them up as he ground his down. It left us both gasping, and then something cold and plastic was being pressed against the back of my hand.

I pulled away and opened my eyes, and smiled when I saw the tube of lubricant. I eagerly snatched it before he bent down to kiss me again. He seemed utterly captivated by the way I tasted and the sweet moans I breathed into his mouth when we rubbed against each other.

I clumsily flipped the top of the tube open, and almost squeezed its contents all over the bed. I managed to get some into my hand, and fumbled for Heero's hard, hot cock. He groaned and bit his lower lip as I stroked him, coating him with the slick lubricant.

"Now... now, Heero... do it. Fuck me, please. I want you to. I need you." I ground out the words as my hips rocked upwards, my leg wrapping tighter around Heero's waist.

He seemingly lost himself hearing my words, as I voiced it out loud, knowing that he'd wanted it for so long and needing this just as much as he did. I had a fleeting thought of taking things slow, but I felt ready to burst after seeing Heero so utterly desperate at me begging to be fucked. He pushed my other leg up against my chest, his hands trembling.

He pressed against me, holding his breath as he pushed forward slowly. For a moment I dazedly thought that we'd forgotten something, and then my muscles relaxed and let him in. It stung, but I needed this, needed it more than anything. He was burying himself in me, sinking into my body. My hips rose to take him in deeper, and he didn't stop until he was completely buried inside.

I gripped his arms and gritted my teeth at the painful intrusion. He was my first. The only one I had ever wanted to do this to me. In all these years, with the all the lovers I have had, I'd always been the one doing the fucking. I hadn't let Heero know that. The uncomfortable feeling gave way in the awareness that it was Heero's cock, being buried deep inside me, and I laughed breathlessly, feeling the need to move rising.

Heero had his eyes squeezed shut and his head lowered, resting it against my chest as he took deep breaths. His body was coiled tight, all muscles rock hard, and I had the suspicion he was close to losing it already. It felt so fabulous, so different, and I loosened my grip on his arms and slid them across his body, testing his tension. He had to calm himself before he ended things too soon.

I shifted beneath him, breathing slowly to relax myself despite the maddening rising need, and my hands stroked through his hair tenderly. "Heero...." I rocked my hips upwards, taking him in even deeper. "Please, move," I moaned.

Heero took another deep breath and he lifted his head so he could gaze down at my face. "I... oh Gods... I.."

I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him down. Before he knew it he was on his back with me on top of him and I was slowly sitting up. He gasped at the sensation of me taking him in so deeply. He'd actually closed his eyes and counted to ten in Japanese under his breath. I didn't move at that, not for several seconds, giving him time to get himself under control.

His hands trembling, he reached up and grabbed a lock of my hair that had unravelled from my braid, and used it to pull me down for a gentle kiss. We kissed until he regained some control over himself. He then let go of me, his hands settling on my hips and urging me to move. I immediately got the hint, and after flashing him a wicked smile, I started to rise up, body clenching around Heero's cock even as it slid out of me, and then falling back down, taking it in to the hilt.

"God... Duo. You're so damned tight." He stared at me as if to memorize the sight of me riding him like this, loose strands of long hair clinging to both of our bodies and the end of my braid curling on his chest. My mouth was open as I panted; my head rolled back, one of my hands pumping myself in time with our thrusts. One of Heero's hands joined in that task, sliding up and down my cock as his was buried again and again in my body. He'd started to pant, too, and I knew his bliss was building again as mine did, knew that this time he wouldn't be able to keep from going over the edge. I wouldn't be able to stop either. Our pace became more frantic, the thrusts fast and deep, leaving us both gasping out each other's names. It felt so good, so perfect.

I let out a startled cry as I was rolled onto my back again, my thighs clamped around Heero's hips as he pounded inside me, pulling me closer to the peak with each thrust. Oh God, it was so good. I could feel Heero's muscles ripple and tighten with each thrust and it simply became too much, no matter how much I wanted to drag this out. Heero came in intense spurts, shouting out. It felt as if he was pouring all of himself inside of me, shuddering in spastic thrusts as he was drained. I could not hold on any longer, and felt relief burst through me as warm liquid coated my hand. I let out a howl, body convulsing with my climax, and he cried out again as my body clamped even tighter around him. Falling forward until his head rested on my chest, he didn't do much more than gasp for air.

We both trembled in the aftershocks, our breath ragged and our bodies sweating. I felt languid and sated, utterly content for the first time in ages. I hugged Heero tightly, needing to hold him, to have him close. My emotions were a muddled mess of affection, desire, need and happiness, all of them focused on my lover. Heero was finally able to shift onto his side, pulling me against him and snuggling close, his arms around my back. He was holding onto me very tightly, as if he would never let go again, causing me to squirm in his arms, until I heard his breath even out and I found myself drifting off to sleep, too.

Life was good, just now. I, too, never wanted to let go.


"Hold still," Sally chided.

It was my turn. Trowa had already undergone his little torture session. He'd woken up a day and a half after I had.

I lay still in the tube and held my breath as she scanned my brain. She tapped a few controls and muttered, and a few minutes later the machine heaved and rolled away from me. I sat up on the cot, and removed all the electrodes on my head. "How is he?" I made a motion in the direction of one of the Karem kids, still sporting a fever. The Karems had no immunity to any of the bacteria normally found in human beings, we discovered. Many of them had gotten sick, and Sally had her hands full.

"He's better now. We're almost through with the shots; some of the Maganacs are becoming very good with hypo-injectors." She smirked. "Thanks to the replicators we have enough serum for all of them." She looked over to the kid, who had gotten one of the nastier bugs from us. "He should be okay, in time," she said.

I bit my lip. "Okay." I hadn't wanted to hurt them. I wanted to rescue them. How were we to know that the Xetoin carrier was a sterile environment? "And the others?"

"They will be fine," she said. "We've got the problem under control."

I nodded.

"So, spill," she said as she packed away her utensils. "What is it that has you so secretive?"

Squiring uncomfortably, I told her: about our suspicion that the serum had enhanced more than we suspected; how the accident in the 'bar' had happened; the Xetoin ships with the dead crews, and the... mass eliminations on board the carrier, done by me. I hopped from the cot and walked over to her, where she and Heero stood and studied the screen.

"I can't see anything overtly unusual, like in the earlier scans of you guys," she said after a while, glancing shortly at Heero. "But I'm no specialist on brain activity. I can just suspect with Bethor's medical data background. See here?" She tapped at a part of the screen, and I bent closer to look. "This section of the brain is normally latent, but yours is fully active. Heero's is active, too, but not to this extent. So are the sections of Quatre, Trowa and Wufei."

She pulled up another scan. "This brain shows normal function, as we know it. It's from your other victim the other day, from the bar accident," she grinned, "Preventer Agent Mills. He's enhanced, too, and if it'd been the serum alone, his brain would show the same pattern."

"Thanks." I made a face at her.

She crossed her arms over her chest. "Anything like that happen before?"

"No." I shook my head.

"Yes," Heero said.

I looked at him, astonished. How did he know? "Uhm, on Earth, a year or so ago..." and I told the story about the rape. "...but I didn't think any of it, then." I finished.

"Hmm, that's all?" She jutted her lower lip

I nodded and opened my mouth to confirm, but Heero was faster, and said no again. I looked at him, confused.

"He made me lose it." He stated.

"I... what?" I blurted out.

He looked at me, quirking the corner of his lips and raising an eyebrow.

I... oh. Oh. OH. I blinked at him.

"Pardon?" Sally asked.

Heero sighed and raked a hand through his hair. "We were occupied in something... private. He made a suggestion about something... intimate and I lost it." He raised an eyebrow at her confused face, totally unconcerned. "Got off... came... creamed my pants..."

"Oh," she exclaimed, grinning, "...lost it. I see."

I felt my ears go hot, and shot Heero a glare. He shrugged. "Uhm, do you think it's because I've been enhanced a lot longer than the others?"

She shrugged. "Can't tell. Maybe." She pondered this. "No, I don't think that's it alone. Maybe your parents had been newtypes, too. We don't know what evolution plans for one or two generations from now..."

I gaped at her. That possibility hadn't crossed my mind. But she was right. I should not exist, yet, in this time. Not until later, much later.

She went on, "... or maybe it's on account of the nanites in combination with the serum that Agent Mills shows no signs of this." She tapped at the screen. "Or it's because of your accident. Don't forget, there *had* been brain damage. Maybe the enhanced healing in combination with the nanites caused something." She narrowed her eyes and stared at nothing. "To unfold the real possibilities of humankind, written in our genes..." she licked her lips, and her eyes shone bright with enthusiastic curiosity. "We could take more tests, and then..."

"Stop." I held up my hands and slowly stepped backwards. "No. No way. No more tests. I'll just be cautious who I yell at, okay?"


"I think it's empathy, just like I have, but the other way around," Quatre leaned his elbows on the table, his chin on his folded hands. "You don't receive, but you *project*."

"Huh." I flipped back my bangs. "Broadcast, huh?"

He nodded.

"Like a radio station," Trowa commented dryly, "only it's like shockwaves."

Heero smirked and I jabbed him in the ribs. "So you're kind of a precog, huh? Like ZERO all over again."

He shook his head. "No. I don't *see* anything. It's more like... a gut feeling."

I bit my lip before I blurted out with what popped into my mind. If Heero had developed this gift earlier... we could have... No. That was low. I almost missed the remainder of the conversion, feeling rather ashamed.

"... concentrating on air molecules." Was the rest I got of Tro's elaboration.

"So," I playfully looked around, "anybody notice anything unusual about Wufei?"

He bristled. "Don't speak about me as if I weren't here, Maxwell. And no. I've not noticed anything unusual about myself."

"But your scan revealed the same activity as ours," Quatre mentioned. "There should be something."

Wufei looked at him, annoyed. "I'll let you know if I'm able to fly."

I smirked. We sat in the 'bar', having a little time together. It had been a long time since we'd been able to. We'd barely seen each other in passing. The last three weeks we'd been busy shuttling between the fighter ships, on which the Karems were perched, who had never been on a ship before. Okay, they'd been on the Xetoins carrier, but it had been so big, it almost qualified as a colony. So, being on a these fighters was frightening for them. And then there was confusion about what to do with them. We reassured them that we would bring them to our planet, but what would await them there?

We'd tried to make them as comfortable as possible, but it was a long way. Bethor took lead of our convoy, and we had worked out a timetable to make it possible for the Karems to come on board for a while before we switched to the next few ships. We only had so much space. It was a change for them, which they gladly accepted. They wandered through our ship with wide eyes, spent time in the holo decks, in which we'd programmed parts of Earth, and the Maganacs and Preventers were busy patiently explaining and answering their questions over and over.

Then there was the little matter of the Xetoins' scouts, already in close proximity of Earth. They would either return, or sit and await orders from a ship that no longer existed. We had to find them. But that had to wait.

I viewed Bethor's recordings of the exploding carrier, and couldn't help being proud. Tro and I had done good. The bombs went off in all the right places. You could see the carrier shuddering, explosion after explosion. Finally, it burst, and we were all relieved that the menace to humankind was gone for good.

The conversation stopped, and I looked up as a figure stepped towards our table. It was one of the Karem. He was looking at me.

"Duo Maxwell." He touched his forehead with the fingertips of both hands and then made a wide sweeping motion with his arms while he bowed. "Thanking you for help get out." He spoke our language, and while broken, it was understandable.

Only then I did recognized him. It was the young man from the cell, the one I had first spoken to. I grinned. "No prob, man. You want to sit down with us?"

We still wore our translators, and thanks to Bethor we'd been able to reprogram ours with the Karem's language. If you listened really hard, it sounded not too different from one of the old African ones on Earth. Bethor had, in an astonishingly short time, come up with a suitable solution.

Our AI had also detected that the translators, which the Karems wore, weren't only that. It was a little but effective device monitoring the body functions, the location, and could send out an electric impulse, which rendered someone, who was confronted with it, in a state of shock. The ideal controlling device for prisoners.

He sat down at my side and looked around, and we chatted.


"I can't believe it," I laughed and looked over to Wufei and Quatre, who looked equally stunned. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"We rescued our ancestors," Wufei said, astonished.

"Looks like it," Quratre leaned in and pulled up another screen. "Here. According to this data, the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy was, at one point, really near our Earth. Their planet must have been close enough that they started expeditions." He tapped another button. "There is a blue planet mentioned."

We'd been analyzing the data they'd transferred over to Bethor whilst they hijacked the control centre. A big chunk was about the conquest and history of the Karems. Okay, not a big chunk in the Xetoins' database, but in the one transferred. The Xetoins had been space nomads, traveling from Galaxy to Galaxy, searching and abducting victims to leech from.

"The Karems have been a very progressive race," Wufei said. "It's a shame, them being wiped out."

"Not completely, Wu," I mused. "Maybe we can... Look, here!" Excitement gripped me as I detected something else. "Here is an expedition mentioned, a convoy of pioneers."

"Maybe all the earlier speculations about the evolution of humans are wrong," Quatre said. "They must have mixed with early homo sapiens, the time pattern matches with the boost in the evolution on Earth. It might explain Sally's results that our genes are so similar to theirs."

"Oh, man, this is fucking fascinating." I practically bounced in my chair. "We've uncovered the secret of human evolution. Shit, man. Imagine the attention that brings to them. They can't ignore this. They have to welcome the Karems with good will. Relena will, I'm sure."

Wufei nodded. "But don't underestimate the opposition they'll get. There will be some, without a doubt." He leaned back. "There'll be fanatics, protests, new religions. Remember we've been silent over the alien invasion affair. No one other than the people here on board and a few others knew about it."

Quatre nodded. "I don't think it would be smart to introduce them as aliens. They're similar enough to us for..."

'Code zero zero nine oh three.' Suddenly came over the com.

'Status oh three.' I inquired, while we stumbled up from our seat. We were already out of the room, running in direction of the hangars.

'Malfunction in fighter. It's out of control. Heero's on board trying to dock in hangar two.'

Heero, shit. 'Bethor, red alert for hangar two. Evacuate all personnel. Emergency crew and medical on standby.' I shouted, bursting into a mad running dash. 'Bethor, assist pilot of dysfunctional shuttle to dock at hangar two. Change course and speed accordingly. Set communications from zero one to conference.'

'In progress.' Bethor answered.

Good. Heero had contacted the AI and asked for assistance already. But that didn't mean everything was going to go smoothly. Bethor could only assist so far. I was running full speed through the hallways, silently begging all the deities to let everything be okay. I suppressed the urge to talk to him; he wouldn't need distraction if he were in a critical situation or dangerous docking maneuver. Instead, I contacted him as I would any other pilot in peril. 'Zero one, status'.

'Zero one. Aborting docking maneuver, I repeat, aborting docking maneuver. Control malfunction increased. Engines not responding to throttle attempt. Space Evac necessary. Engines critical. Estimated time for overload twenty-three minutes. Over.'

I think my heart stopped as he casually reported the danger he was in. We had to get out and get them transferred. Immediately. 'Bethor, shuttle start for rendezvous with malfunctioning ship, now.'

'All shuttles in transfer,' was the reply.

Damn. Damn, damn, damn. Then a thought shot to my mind and I detoured to hangar three, Wufei and Quatre still on my heels. Ezgadi. My ship was still parked in hangar three. Originally, its capacity was rather small, but this was an emergency and we could use the freight area for the evacuation of people. I barked orders as I made my way to Ezgadi and raced through Bethor's hallways and into the hangar. People were busy loading flight suits in and other equipment, and a few were startled by our sudden appearance beside the ship. I boarded and raced to the cockpit, throwing myself in the pilot's seat.

Starting up the engines, my fingers sped over the controls and I brought her to life and reveled a moment in the feeling of the hum of the engines, vibrating through the ship. 'Bethor, I need coordinates for rendezvous point, now.' "Hey, girl," I said out loud, "wakey, wakey."

Out of the corner of my eyes I saw Wufei, who was already slipping into the co-pilot's seat, giving me a funny look.

"Hello, Duo. All systems green. I am receiving data from an unknown source."

I licked my lips and grinned at Wufei, who'd raised an eyebrow, while my fingers flew over the keys. "Coordinates confirmed and locked. Ship lockdown now. Countdown on five when status secured. Emergency start. Drive on one hundred percent."

"Confirmed, Duo," Ezgadi said.

Quatre came in then and I grinned at him, wild and wide. "Find something to strap into, we're going, hard and fast."

He nodded and strapped down into one of the seats meant for passengers, and I groped for my harness, seeing out of the corner of my eye Wufei doing the same whilst Ezgadi completed the countdown. The engines whined and we were in motion, pressed into our seats while Ezgadi shot through the hangar and out into space at top speed.

'Zero two, do you copy zero one?' I asked over the com.

'Copy, zero two,' he said.

'Status?' I inquired.

'Unchanged, over.'

I nodded to myself and glanced at the screens. 'Rendezvous in seven point five minutes. Prepare for evac. Over.'

'Roger and out,' he said.

I noticed motion behind me and turned my head.

"We need to suit up," Quatre said calmly. "We have to bring the suits over so that they can all change over to here." I nodded distractedly and he left the cockpit while I calculated the time in my head. It would be narrow. I made a decision.

"I'll decompress the freight room while you're over. You have to bring them all in here at once. We don't have enough time for a slow evac through the air lock. You can stay there during the short trip back to Bethor."

I got a short nod from Wufei and then he, too, was gone. It would be fine, I said to myself. Nothing would go wrong. I stared out into space and willed the fighter to appear. I had to go in close proximity with my Ezgadi so the people could get in fast, and then we had to get the hell out of there. The seconds ticked by in my head, and I took a deep breath.

''Ro? Will we be okay?' I asked over the com.

There was no answer at first, but then there came his 'Yes', and I was relieved. Everything would be fine. Then the proximity alarm sounded and I looked up, saw the ship in front of me, followed by Heavyarms and Wing, coming in from a slight angle; and I had my hands full plotting a new course, adjusting the speed and bringing Ezgadi as near as I dared to. It was pretty close, so Quatre and Wufei would only have to cover a small distance.

They left as I gave the all clear, and I watched them gliding through space, the container holding the spacesuits between them, and the tether curling behind them like a living thing.

I set to decompressing the freight area and anxiously ogled the controls. It wasn't fast enough for my taste. But if I did it too fast, the ship could be ripped apart. Finally finished, I opened the freight doors and hopped out of my seat. I raced through my ship, donning my own suit and entering the air lock, secured my own tether. I stepped out into space and activated my magnets, undid the other two tethers and walked alongside Ezgadi to the freight room where I secured them again, before I made the same way back.

As I looked up again from the airlock, a steady flood of suit-clad people left the dysfunctional fighter ship, gliding alongside the tethers. The closing door hid them from my sight, and I got in again, ripping my helmet off as I rushed into the cockpit. Everything was fine. Ezgadi's AI had held the ship at a steady distance. I sat down in my seat and waited for an all clear from the guys, impatiently drumming my fingers on the armrest. Time was up. Any moment now... and then there was the all clear from Quatre. My hand fell on the button to close the freight doors and I exhaled the breath I didn't know I'd been holding.

In motion to change course and get the hell out of there, I glanced over to the ship and saw a lone figure in the airlock of the fighter, in motion to leave.

'Heero?' I shouted, astonished.

'I'll take Wing,' he said, sailing away from the ship, 'Go.'

'But...' I shook my head, unbelieving, as I saw him gliding through space, Wing closing in on his position.

'Go.' he shouted in my head.

I'd already keyed the controls, and Ezgadi had turned away, the distance between us growing steadily.

I swallowed hard. 'Okay. See ya.' And then he was out of my sight, Ezgadi leaving him behind at top speed. I watched the rear monitors, and even though I was waiting for it, I still jumped as I saw the fighter go down in one hell of an explosion. We still were too close, and I was just grateful that Ezgadi's hull was from Gundanium.

But Heero had been nearer. Had he made it safely into Wing?

'Heero?' I inquired over the com. There was no answer.

'Zero one, status,' I repeated.

'No visual.' Trowa answered in his stead. 'Too much debris for a clear scan. Searching parameters.'

I shook my head. This wasn't possible. He said we would be fine. He knew I hated lying. Had he lied? There had been a slight hesitation... I couldn't believe it. No.

"Heero... please answer me." I whispered, choking on the sudden pain in my chest. I had to go back, search for him. Make sure he was okay. 'Zero one, status. Heero, answer damnit.' And still he did not reply.

'Duo, we have to bring the people to Bethor, they're beginning to panic.' Wufei reported.

I choked. 'But Heero...'

'We'll come back. Trowa's already searching. Heero has a full air tank in his suit. If... We'll find him.'

I nodded absently, feeling the desperate need to turn around, being ripped apart from duty and want. '... 'Kay.' I replied sullenly, still staring at the screen, '... we'll come back.'

And I knew, nothing would stop me.

[part 13] [part 15] [back to Singles a - k]